OPINION: Plus-sized in a small-minded world
My journey with loving my body has been a bumpy one. In fact, my journey is still going. I once equated skinniness with happiness. My perspective has changed, and I’m grateful for that progress. I went from crying in dressing rooms to dancing around to music while trying on clothes that society would deem too scandalous for my fat body.
Clothing has played a big part in molding how I view myself. The inclusivity of plus sizes and the growth of the body positivity movement has helped me to see myself in a more positive light.
The body positivity movement can be traced back to the 60s with the rise of fat bodies being celebrated. Thanks to the progression of the movement, today in 2018, bodies like mine are seen on magazine covers and in the fashion industry.
Because of that same progress, now, when I see clothing that doesn’t cater to my size, instead of thinking I have to change, I question why all clothing stores haven’t changed. U.S. clothing stores consider sizes 14 and up plus size.
Research done by Plunkett Research reveals that 68 percent of women in America fall into this category. Some clothing companies are catering to this truth, and sadly, some aren’t. Why is the size range in clothing stores everywhere not reflecting the world I live in, a world where a majority of women are curvy? I question this non-inclusivity, especially as I pass by certain stores on University Boulevard.
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Clothing stores located on University, a street that leads directly to the University of Arizona, don’t appear to cater to plus-sized people. University Boulevard is home to Main Gate Square. Main Gate Square deems itself as “a pedestrian-friendly dining and shopping destination featuring over 20 retailers and 30 restaurants near the University of Arizona and Tucson’s historic neighborhoods.”
With it being so close to campus, it’s easily accessible to UA students, like me. I’m sure they know this, and I’m sure they know that there are plus-sized UA students. I decided to do my own investigating to see who is and isn’t serving a student community that is so underrepresented.
I found only four stores on University Boulevard that consistently carry plus sizes: Dress Code, A-City, Sonoran Cycles Tucson and, despite not being well known for clothing, CVS.
Destinee Escarcega, a sales associate at Dress Code, not only agrees there should be options for curvier bodies, she proudly flaunts her own.
“There’s obviously so many different types of body types that go to college, of course,” Escarcega said. “[From] a personal standpoint, I am a little plus myself. I like to see options as well.”
Although those four stores have clothing for a variety of body types, I found that six others do not consistently carry sizes past large: Pitaya, Swindlers, Grand Central Clothing, Urban Outfitters, Collette and Boutique 816.
Boutique 816 sales associate Taylor Keeter, who also works at Collette, supports the inclusion of plus sizes.
“I do think it’s really unfair that we don’t carry [plus sizes] and even like the petite sizes we don’t carry, so we really don’t cater to a large population,” Keeter said.
With eight years of retail experience behind her belt, Keeter was able to elaborate on why Boutique 816, which is seen as a mom-and-pop shop due to being a small boutique, and businesses like it provide a limited size range.
“As far as why business owners don’t do it, I totally understand why, because when we order a size run, it’s typically small through large, or extra small through large sometimes. And a size run, when we wanna order more than that it’s gonna cost us extra,” Keeter explained. “And so people that own a mom-and-pop shop typically do just carry small, medium, large, those three trio sizes, whereas a corporate’s going to carry a bunch, because they can afford that.”
The store manager of Pitaya, Samantha Daly, shared another reason why stores carry smaller sizes only. “That’s mainly what’s available from the vendors that we buy from,” Daly confessed.
Knowing that a corporate business can carry more size options because they have the money to do so, it’s alarming to see that one like Urban Outfitters chooses not to.
Tommy Cooper, a senior team lead at Urban Outfitters, describes the store’s style as “definitely more like skate, or like young adult, very, like, urban.” He also noted they cater to men and women and they sometimes have extra large.
Sometimes isn’t enough, and knowing Urban Outfitters has the potential funds to consistently carry plus sizes makes them appear less willing to be inclusive. Also, the fact that they serve more than one gender reveals that they’re not only leaving out plus-sized women but plus-sized men as well.
My findings provided me with more bad than good. More than half of the stores that sell clothing on University Boulevard do not cater to the plus-sized demographic. I wanted a qualified expert’s opinion on the matter. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with Lisa MacDonald, coordinator of nutrition services at the UA. Her work contributes to bettering body image on campus.
“I would hope that everyone would provide opportunity — for people of all body types and sizes,” MacDonald said. “I absolutely think it [lack of plus-sizes in clothing stores] could be detrimental to self-esteem and body image issues.”
I can attest to MacDonald’s views. I know that not having many options to choose from was very unsettling for me during my teen years. I don’t want other girls like me, and boys as well, to go through the sadness and isolation I felt while growing up.
No matter what excuse a business has for not including plus sizes, at the end of the day, an excuse is just an excuse, a string of words used to cover up flaws and mistakes. While four stores on University Boulevard are providing hope and inclusion for bigger bodies, the other six still have work to do. Based on their excuses, it sounds like it’s hard to serve a variety of body types, but I can assure you it’s not as hard as being plus sized in a small-minded world.
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